Feinstein, Dianne Goldman

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FEINSTEIN, DIANNE GOLDMAN (1933– ), U.S. Democratic senator from California. Feinstein was a centrist legislator and a pioneering politician. She was the first woman to be elected president of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors (1969), mayor of San Francisco (1978), nominated by a major party for governor of California (1990), elected U.S. senator from California (1992), and appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee (1993).

The daughter of Dr. Leon Goldman, a prominent surgeon, and his wife Betty (Rosenburg), Feinstein started a public service career at a young age. Born and raised in San Francisco, she attended Stanford University where she won her first election as vice president of the Student Body. Upon graduation in 1955 she was awarded a Coro Foundation fellowship to study public policy. Five years later the governor appointed her to the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole, where she served until 1966. Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969, Feinstein served for nine years, five years as Board president. She was serving in this capacity in 1978 when Mayor George Moscone was assassinated in his city hall office. Feinstein became the acting mayor. A year later, she was elected in her own right, serving the city from 1978 to 1988 when term limits forced her from office. In 1990 the Democratic Party nominated Feinstein for governor, she was narrowly defeated. Two years later, California voters sent her to the U.S. Senate to fill two years of a vacated seat; she was subsequently elected to full six-year terms in 1994 and 2000.

For much of her career Feinstein focused on crime prevention. As mayor of San Francisco she cut the crime rate 27 percent. A successful advocate for victims of crime and crime prevention, she was instrumental in passing the Gun-Free Schools Act (1994); the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enforcement Act (1993); the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act (1996); and the Assault Weapons Ban 1994–2004. Supportive of the Jewish community, Feinstein was a member of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, California, where she was confirmed.


A.F. Kahn and G. Matthews, "120 Years of Women's Activism," in: A.F. Kahn and M. Dollinger (eds.), California Jews (2003).

[Ava F. Kahn (2nd ed.)]